Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Most OK with TSA full-body scanners

Air travelers strongly approve of the government's use of body scanners at the nation's airports even if the machines compromise privacy, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll finds.

Poll respondents appeared to endorse a Transportation Security Administration plan to install 300 scanners at the nation's largest airports this year to replace metal detectors. The machines, used in 19 airports, create vivid images of travelers under their clothes to reveal plastics and powders to screeners observing monitors in a closed room.

"It would seem much more thorough than the process that we're doing now," poll respondent Joel Skousen, 38, of Willcox, Ariz., said. "It would put me more at ease getting on a plane."

In the poll, 78% of respondents said they approved of using the scanners, and 67% said they are comfortable being examined by one. Eighty-four percent said the machines would help stop terrorists from carrying explosives onto airplanes. The survey was taken Jan. 5-6 of 542 adults who have flown at least twice in the past year.

Only 29% of respondents say they are more concerned about air safety since the alleged Dec. 25 attempt by a Nigerian passenger to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. Bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab got through an airport metal detector in Amsterdam with powder explosives in his underwear.

"Nothing happened," said Lynne Webster, 33, of Albion, Neb. "Security will only get better because of a scare."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that the TSA "should accelerate" the scanners' installation and may buy more than the 300 machines it owns.

Privacy advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union have denounced the scanners as an invasion of privacy.

"To use these scanners, I would feel rather violated," said poll respondent Malena Jackson, 35, of Denver. She worries that the images would be saved, even though the TSA says they are deleted immediately. "Just hearing that doesn't really make me comfortable," Jackson said.

Passengers can opt to be patted down by a screener instead of going through a scanner. Only 22% of poll respondents said they prefer a pat-down to a scan. "In a pat-down, I do feel like you're invading my physical space," said Dennis Skiles, 62, of Livonia, Mich.

TSA acting Administrator Gale Rossides said the poll results "demonstrate public understanding" of the need to use the scanners.

Posted via email from Refuse 2 Be Programmed

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